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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Back to Basics (book review)

I came across this volume at a local bookstore and liked it so much I just had to add it to my preparedness library. According to the publishers site, it is a basic how to add on for anyone wanting to live a simpler life. Here’s what Skyhorse publishing says about the book;

Anyone who wants to learn basic living skills—the kind employed by our forefathers—and adapt them for a better life in the twenty-first century need look no further than this eminently useful, full-color guide. Countless readers have turned to Back to Basics for inspiration and instruction, escaping to an era before power saws and fast food restaurants and rediscovering the pleasures and challenges of a healthier, greener, and more self-sufficient lifestyle. Now newly updated, the hundreds of projects, step-by-step sequences, photographs, charts, and illustrations in Back to Basics will help you dye your own wool with plant pigments, graft trees, raise chickens, craft a hutch table with hand tools, and make treats such as blueberry peach jam and cheddar cheese. The truly ambitious will find instructions on how to build a log cabin or an adobe brick homestead. More than just practical advice, this is also a book for dreamers—even if you live in a city apartment you will find your imagination sparked, and there’s no reason why you can’t, for example, make a loom and weave a rag rug. Complete with tips for old-fashioned fun (square dancing calls, homemade toys, and kayaking tips), this may be the most thorough book on voluntary simplicity available.

While the intent of the book is to fuel an interest in simpler living, or a suggestion we return to some of the slower ways, it is much more for the prepper and survivalist crowd.

Part 1 deals with the issues around finding, buying, building and setting up your homestead. There are many points dealing with the preparedness aspects of homesteading here but it still covers enough about the mystery of land buying and what to look for that it makes it worth the purchase.

Part 2 addresses the questions of power for your homestead and looks at wind power, small scale hydro power, wood burning and solar power. One of the problems we will encounter in the coming times will be a questionable source of electricity from a decaying public grid. One of the discussions deals with the somewhat taboo usage of hydropower. There are in fact in use a great many homestead sized hydropower installations around the country that produce just enough energy for personal use. We usually think of hydropower as coming from the larger commercial dams that span and entire rivers width and generate power in the mega watt range, but there are several models of smaller output turbines that can be installed with minimal impact on a streams environment while still providing you with the electricity you need to power your house.

Part 3 deals with raising your own food such as fruit, vegetables and livestock. I particularly like the points on intensive gardening and container gardening, both of which should be in your toolbox of knowledge. As land becomes more and more expensive many preppers will need to settle for smaller properties than would be ideal for long term planning needs. It is essential that we have knowledge of planting and raising our own food crops should the ultimate meltdown occur and we no longer have any traditional outlets to obtain our nourishment.

Part 4 naturally follows raising crops with discussion regarding food storage and preservation, and preparing that food for consumption. An important part of this section covers cooking with wood, an art woefully gone from today’s world of microwave cooking and takeout foods. Read this section before you make any decisions as to what kind(s) of woodstove you need to buy for your preparedness homestead.

Part 5 deals with a range of old time crafts and skills that will help you make it through the coming times. Tin-smithing and rug-making can seem pretty archaic, but if you learn to do some of the things in this section, you just may find yourself the proud owner of a marketable skill should we wake up one morning and find the world as we know it gone.

Part 6 deals with the recreational aspects of simpler living, and you may find some of these activities handy if there is no television to sit your kids in front of. I’ve seen a lot of pictures of FEMA’s disaster camps, and I haven’t seen one single person smiling in any of those pictures. Granted, it’s hard to smile when your life crashes down around you. But it seems to me that if there were some kind of entertainment to keep people occupied and busy, the time would pass with a little less pain. Perhaps some of the games and activities in this section will come in handy during an evacuation period. Additionally there are some good tips on getting out into the world of nature with some tips on living in the wilds, fishing and so forth.

The book concludes with an appendix containing some good contact information on many agencies that may be of help to you in your quest to build your survival homestead.
Edited by Abigail R. Gehring, Back to Basics, 3rd edition, is well worth the money I paid for it as an addition to my own library of survival and preparedness planning. This book covers everything from building a log cabin to tanning hides and making clothes, while at the same time guiding you through your food raising needs and preserving that food which you grew in your own container garden. How can you lose?